Saturday, May 2, 2015

Guest blog: God, Can I have a Cookie? The Question of Prayer

Today it's a delight to feature a guest blog by Jennifer Baker. Feel free to respond below or directly to Jen at

Remember the Ikea television commercial, with the man in a lab coat repeatedly wrenching a cupboard door open, saying “Mom, can I have a cookie” and then slamming the cupboard shut? When I ask God for something I just plain want, like a parking place, a laptop, or good weather for a game, I can’t help but think about this commercial. Am I just bugging God for something that may not be good for me and doesn’t seem important in any context outside of my own desires?

But I want it! My Christian traditions and Bible teaching have taught me that:  
·     It never hurts to ask (John 14:14)
·     ·     It doesn’t matter how insignificant the request is, God cares.
·     ·     If I keep asking, God will eventually cave. (Parable of the friend at night, Luke 11:5-13)
·     ·     I can ask God for a sign (this comes with dangers)
·     ·     I can pray for gifts like patience, a peaceful spirit (but I won’t because that will probably bring hardship and testing first!)

I pray with the belief that if what I’m asking is in God’s will, and if it really is in his will, he will grant my request, which is what I’m saying when I pray in Jesus’ name – the one who said “not my will but thy will be done” (Luke 22:42).

Then there’s the mini-person on my shoulder (who looks a bit like my grandmother, who had many wise and cautionary things to say) that says, “Watch out what you pray for!” The thing is, if I am praying for something I just really want, it’s not in the same category as “Please heal my dad.”

Even so, I know that God still listens to me when I treat him like a vending machine: “Okay, I need to get home in 20 minutes or I’ll be late for choir; and I need to find a dress to buy that’s under $50; and I pray little Nicky will be in a good mood so I can get dinner on the table without clobbering him. Uh, I mean, well, thank you. Jen out.”

I don’t doubt that God cares about me personally and all my concerns and worries, having experienced human life himself through his son Jesus. 

But sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t just put a cork in it? Shouldn’t talking to the Almighty God who created everything command a measure of respect from me? What shall I say to him in my little selfish moments that he doesn’t already know?

What about the repetitious prayers? Is it really necessary to pound on God’s door with the same request for healing every day? Am I annoying God with my prayer to “Please heal my dad?” And lay out my fleece, like Gideon (Judges 6:37) – “Okay, if you just give me a sign – if his blood count is up today, then I’ll know you are healing him.” – isn’t that just hedging my bets? 

Do I believe God can heal? Yes. Do I genuinely think God will heal if I pray in Jesus’ name? Not sure, maybe. Will it help to ask for a sign from God to give me a hint about his will? That would be no, in my opinion. And if I repeatedly ask for the same thing, do I think God will eventually relent and give me what I want?

Yes, there’s a protocol for talking to God – the Lord’s Prayer – in which we are given an outline of how to pray. We can know Jesus on a personal level and truly ask God for anything, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross: I can pray to God with a daughter’s assurance that no matter how silly my request is, God will listen. And then smile that wry smile that he saves for me when I ask stupid questions before letting me down gently! Luckily the King of the Universe is accustomed to being the smartest one in the room!

Perhaps, however, when we pray for small individual needs and desires, our focus is a bit off. Although lots of Old Testament prophets and kings conversed directly with God (who spoke back), and many New Testament people were lucky enough to know and talk to Jesus in person, the Bible includes few individuals praying for personal gain or small needs.

When God speaks to people in the Bible, it’s not about donkey parking places or test taking success, it’s about what’s good for the community, or smiting evil, or healing someone in front of witnesses. Do we believe the disciples also prayed to the Heavenly Father for themselves? Probably. Some things didn’t make it into the Bible: “And Peter also go the new net he asked for.” Do we think Jonah just meekly treaded water as he was swallowed by a whale, or possibly prayed, “Please don’t let this thing eat me?”

We will be swallowed by our world, spat out somewhere God needs us, inconvenienced, and realize that our status as children of God allows us to ask whatever we wish, but I’m thinking we might wish higher!

Read more:
*Happy are those who make the Lord their trust. Psalm 40:4 ESV

*Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer. Isaiah 49:26 ESV

*The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28 ESV

*Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. Hebrews 10:35 NIV

Moravian Prayer: God of the cross, God of the empty tomb, God of everywhere in between—no matter where we find ourselves, you are there, ushering in newness of life, both now and forevermore.
Dear Lord, make us servants of your peace. May we be faithful to you in our work in this world, preaching your word of grace. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity:
This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic,and what not. 

But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.

In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

1 comment:

  1. I love this. Great work Jen, and thanks Rosemarie for making room.